London(CNN Business) Billionaires added $5 trillion to their fortunes during the pandemic, according to Oxfam, exacerbating economic inequality as the pandemic pushed millions of people around the world into poverty.
Using data compiled by Forbes, Oxfam says in a new report that the total wealth of billionaires jumped from $8.6 trillion in March 2020 to $13.8 trillion in November 2021, a bigger increase than in the previous 14 years combined. The world's richest 10 men saw their collective wealth more than double, shooting up by $1.3 billion a day.
The report was released ahead of the World Economic Forum's online Davos Agenda, which will take place this week after the group's annual in-person meeting was delayed due to Omicron. Oxfam argues that governments should tax gains made by the super-rich during the pandemic and use the money to fund health care systems, pay for vaccines, fight discrimination and address the climate crisis.
"Billionaires have had a terrific pandemic. Central banks pumped trillions of dollars into financial markets to save the economy, yet much of that has ended up lining the pockets of billionaires riding a stock market boom," Gabriela Bucher, Oxfam's executive director, said in a press release.
The combined wealth of the top 10 billionaires — including Tesla (TSLA) CEO Elon Musk and Amazon (AMZN) founder Jeff Bezos — doubled during the pandemic and is now six times greater than that of the world's poorest 3.1 billion people, according to the report.
"Inequality at such pace and scale is happening by choice, not chance," Bucher said. "Not only have our economic structures made all of us less safe against this pandemic, they are actively enabling those who are already extremely rich and powerful to exploit this crisis for their own profit."
The pandemic has not been the "great equalizer" some predicted.
The World Bank estimates that 97 million people worldwide fell into extreme poverty in 2020 and are now living on less than $2 a day. The number of the world's poorest also rose for the first time in over 20 years.
Vaccine inequality has become a major issue as many of the world's richest countries hoard shots, buying up enough doses to vaccinate their populations several times over and failing to deliver on their promises to share them with the developing world.
Billionaires are being asked to use their wealth to help the less fortunate.
David Beasley, director of the United Nations' World Food Programme, called on billionaires including Bezos and Musk to "step up now, on a one-time basis" to help solve world hunger in November.
The call-out got a direct response from Musk, who later said on Twitter that if the organization could lay out "exactly how" the funding would solve the issue, he would "sell Tesla stock right now and do it."
The CEO did not publicly respond when the UN released a plan.